June report to Mid Samford parishes

REPORT TO PARISHES, Mid-Samford Ward: June 2013

Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

Average speed cameras

Average speed cameras are to be installed along the stretch of A12 from Stratford St. Mary to the Four Sisters junction at East Bergholt. However the accident problem extends from the Essex border to Copdock Mill roundabout. We are lobbying the Highways Agency to extend the provision of average speed cameras all along the A12 in Suffolk.

Babergh Transformation Groups

The political leaders at Babergh (and also in Mid Suffolk) have agreed to set up six “Transformation Enquiry Groups”, comprising councillors, officers, stakeholders, outside experts, etc, in order to find better, different and efficient ways of achieving objectives and delivering key services.  The groups are: growth and economy – (Sue is a member of this group;) environment; housing; health, wellbeing and communities; public access – (i.e. “front office”, Kathy is the council’s lead member on this group;) and corporate organisation and resources (“back office” agenda.)  We hope to get these groups working by the end of June, when the appointments to the final officer tier are confirmed.  These officers will form the front line delivery teams of all services across the two councils.  The brief for these groups is to take a very radical look at the six overarching themes, to compare ourselves with best practice, wherever that might be, and to undertake significant research.  It will be a considerable challenge, but in the current economic climate we have to find new ways of matching needs with resources.  All of the consultations made in the last many months will be taken into account, but residents and businesses may well find us asking yet more questions later in the year.

 

The Sustainable Communities Act – what it means for local communities

The Sustainable Communities Act came into force in 2007. It allows local councils to request additional powers from national government to help protect and improve their local communities. These must be powers that they don’t already have. Some examples are given below:

  • That government gives councils the power to charge an additional rate on car parking spaces of out-of-town supermarkets and the right to retain the revenue collected in order to re-invest in projects to develop local businesses, local jobs and the economy
  • That government give councils the power to create a separate fund for the revenue raised from council tax on second homes to be used for reinvestment in local affordable housing needs.
  • That government give councils the power and resources to refurbish existing housing in the council’s area to reduce fuel poverty and increase energy efficiency e.g. by fitting insulation.

First councils must consult with representatives of the community. They would then submit the proposals to the Local Government Association (LGA) – a national body which represents principal councils (e.g. Districts, Borough and County Councils). The LGA would assess the proposal and, if approved, would seek to promote the scheme and agree it with national government.

It’s an interesting Act and would require considerable further work to determine, first of all, what proposals the council would like to take forward. We would welcome any suggestions. Further information is available on the following website: www.localworks.org where there is a Best Practice Guide.

Homelessness Strategy

Homelessness is not just about rough sleepers. In common with other authorities, Babergh and Mid Suffolk District councils have a statutory duty to help people who are losing their homes. If they are homeless and in a priority group the council has a duty to provide temporary accommodation. If they are homeless, in a priority group and not intentionally homeless, the council has a duty to offer a social or private tenancy.

Priority groups include people with children or expecting a baby, care leavers, former armed forces personnel and people who are vulnerable due to old age, physical disability, mental illness or due to experiencing violence.

In 2012, across both Babergh and Mid Suffolk, 150 households were accepted for re-housing. Homelessness was caused mainly by domestic violence or relationship breakdown, loss of private rented accommodation or exclusion by family or friends.

Across both Districts there were 172 preventions in 2012/13 but with an increased incidence of homelessness there has also been an increase in the use of bed and breakfast accommodation.

In order to prevent homelessness help is being given with housing benefits issues and negotiations are being carried out with landlords and families.

Housing Advice for local people

Babergh District Council has teamed up with SNAP – the Support & Advice Project – to offer a free, drop-in service for those in need of housing-related support.

From next Wednesday 12 June 9.30am-12.30pm and the second Wednesday morning of every month thereafter, a room will be set aside at the Council offices where members of the general public can gain advice on anything to do with housing.

Other issues SNAP can help with include developing life skills, access to health and well-being, working and training and accessing community and social networks.

The SNAP service is also available at Hadleigh children’s centre and the intention is to offer a similar service at Mid Suffolk District Council in the near future.

Anyone interested in using the service from 12 June onwards should call in to Babergh’s main reception for directions to the relevant meeting room.

A12 and speed cameras

The A12 dual carriageway from just South of the Essex/Suffolk border to the Copdock Mill interchange has a very high level of accidents. All but two junctions are substandard. The stretch of the A12 from the Essex border is sinuous with sections of poor visibility, lengthy gradients and poor camber. We are asking the Highways agency to consider extending the section of road covered by average speed cameras from the Essex border to the Copdock interchange.

Essex border (Birchwood Lane) to Copdock Mill interchange

There were a total of 298 casualties from 215 accidents from 1st January 2006 to 31st December 2010. The costs are broken down as follows:

  DfT cost Number of accidents Number of casualties Total cost
Fatal 1,683,810 4 5 8,419,050
Serious 189,200 22 28 5,297,600
Slight 14,590 189 265 3,866,350
        17,583,000

Comparing the number of accidents during this five year period, there is a stark difference between the following four sections of road:

  • Ardleigh Interchange to Birchwood 11 casualties
  • Birchwood to Essex/Suffolk border 49 casualties
  • Essex/Suffolk border to East Bergholt/Four Sisters 121 casualties
  • East Bergholt/Four Sisters to Copdock Mill interchange 177 casualties
Stretch of road No. of accidents distance accidents per mile
Four Sisters junction to Copdock/A14 interchange 128 5 miles 25.6
Essex/Suffolk border to Four  Sisters 87 2.75 miles 31.6
Birchwood Lane to E/S border 27 1.5 miles 18
Ardleigh Interchange to Birchwood Lane 10 1.5 miles 6.66
TOTALS 252 10.75 miles  

Babergh Planning committee turns down Hadleigh Tesco application

BABERGH DISTRICT COUNCIL MEDIA RELEASE

PLANNING COMMITTEE REFUSES HADLEIGH TESCO APPLICATION

For immediate release: 18 September 2013

This morning Babergh’s Planning Committee voted to refuse Tesco’s application to build a supermarket at the former Brett Works Site in Hadleigh.

After considering the Tesco application on the edge of town site in Hadleigh, Babergh’s Planning Committee decided to refuse the proposed development. This application represented the culmination of earlier proposals and involved a scheme which had been the subject of much negotiation including a design review by Shape East. Following consideration of a comprehensive Committee report which set out all the impacts, the Committee considered all the issues and decided, by 7 votes to 6, to refuse it on the basis that the proposed development would negatively affect the sustainability and vitality of Hadleigh Town Centre.

Planning documents are here

Report to Mid Samford parishes

Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

Here is May’s report – a bit late and the next one will be posted shortly.

New Constitution

Council agreed to adopt its new constitution at a special meeting in April, which will see increased joint working between Babergh and Mid Suffolk.  There will be some joint committees including Scrutiny and Audit, but they will both have separate committees so that each council can address its own issues.  The structures mirror each other in order to facilitate the servicing of both councils by one officer team.

The extent to which Babergh and Mid Suffolk are working together has attracted attention from Westminster and from the local government press.  Lobbying of the Minister by our two leaders very probably contributed to some extra grant this year to help us develop our transformation agendas.  We also made the short list of the Municipal Journal’s award system recently and on Friday 10th May a deputation from the two councils attended a presentation event in London to put our case for an award.  The results of this will be announced in June, but whatever the outcome, this is significant recognition of the work done here in Suffolk.

Transformation enquiry groups

Early in May members of Babergh’s Strategy Committee and Mid Suffolk’s Executive held a joint workshop to consider the next step towards achieving transformation in the ways the two councils deliver services.  There will be six working groups comprising officers and councillors and also representatives from outside agencies and organisations together with individuals with expertise and interests as we investigate new ideas, best practice from elsewhere and more effective and different ways of operating.  These enquiry groups will not be looking at specific service areas, but at overall themes and how service areas feed into achieving prioritised outcomes.  The themes, in essence, focus on growth and the local economy; the environment; housing; health, wellbeing and communities; “front office” issues such as customer and services access; and “back office” functions such as ICT, HR, financial and legal services.  There is already a lot of work in progress on this last grouping.

These enquiries are directed towards finding further savings which could be as high as $4.2m over the next three years – or between 14% and 18% of the budget requirement each year.  This is not only a huge challenge in a very practical sense but we are likely to find ourselves challenged culturally and facing very different ways of doing things.

 

Role of Independents on Babergh

There have been a number of letters in the press recently about the role of the independent (no description) Babergh member, Clive Arthey and the fact that he had been denied a committee place. Colleagues in Mid Suffolk and Babergh have been asked questions and we thought it would be helpful if we explained what has happened.

Firstly, as we have previously reported, the council has been reviewing its committee structures. Under the legislation brought in by the previous government committee places are allocated proportionately, dependent on the number of members in each group. On Babergh District Council there are four groups (group numbers in brackets): Conservative (18), Liberal Democrat (12), Independent (9) and Labour (3). Clive Arthey is not a member of any of these groups. He is a truly independent Independent, refuses to group even with the other independents, and as such he would not automatically get a place on any committee.

At the council meeting on April 9th this year members had the option of allowing Clive a committee place, but, due to the legislation, if just one person voted against, then he would be denied a committee place. A number of councillors spoke in favour of Clive continuing to serve on the planning committee. Many of us felt that it was a denial of democracy to exclude him from any committee and that all councillors should be able to play a role in the council, no matter what their politics.

There was a recorded vote and all but one Conservatives plus one Independent voted against. Eleven of the 12 members of the Lib Dem group voted for him to have a committee place, with one abstention. The other Independents and the two Labour members present also voted in favour. At the most recent council meeting on April 23rd the Independent group decided to give up one of their places on the Strategy committee for Clive. So democracy triumphed in the end, thanks to the generosity of the Independent group.

Good luck to my Lib Dem colleagues

As I draw to the end of my 20 year term of office on Suffolk County Council I thank all those who have voted for, and supported me, over that time. I have enjoyed working with my parish councils in Belstead Brook. They have been a great bunch of people. I have also enjoyed working with campaign groups, including “Bury not Blight”, who want to stop new electricity pylons, and recently “SIT”, who are campaigning against two giant 430 foot wind turbines on land between Belstead, Wherstead and Pinewood. Both groups are trying to stop further unsightly clutter in our beautiful Suffolk countryside.We have been quite clear from the start that we don’t want any more pylons or giant wind turbines. Other parties have been rather shy about making their views known – apart from the Greens, who are backing the wind turbines.

In 1993 we ended 104 years of Conservative rule in Suffolk. For 12 years we prioritised education and social care, and made our streets safer with 30mph village speed limits – the initiative of my Lib Dem colleague, Peter Monk. Education in Suffolk was widely admired. We were in the top 30 councils in England – unlike now, after eight years of Conservative rule, when we are close to the bottom of the league table.

It is with great sadness that I’ve watched the decline and closure of services under the Conservatives. Household waste sites have closed, as have youth clubs. Bus services have been cut, with no services on Sundays and Bank Holidays and very few evening services. Conservative Guy McGregor closed the Bury Road Park and Ride service two years ago and passenger numbers on the two remaining Park and Ride services have plummeted from just over one million to half that. The introduction of a charge for over 60s and disabled pass holders and the increased fares for families has clearly discouraged many people from using the service – coupled with the Countywide ban on using bus passes before 9.30am – even for hospital appointments. So much for the Greenest County!

Although we still have all our libraries, they are no longer run by the County Council. Suffolk Libraries have been outsourced and their future funding is uncertain. They’ve been told that they must raise £100,000 from local communities this year. So, whilst council tax is frozen, the public will still have to stump up if we want to retain our much cherished library service.

I attach a copy of the Conservatives’ end of term report (School Report web) which gives a much fuller picture of their record in office. I and my Lib Dem colleagues have worked extremely hard over the last eight years to hold them to account. We joined the public in the campaign to keep all our libraries open, fought against the closure of Middle Schools, household waste sites, youth clubs, the Bury Road Park and Ride service and the eXplore student discount card (which we introduced in 2005 and they axed in the middle of the 2011 academic year). They have failed to keep contract costs under control, having abolished the committee where councillors monitored such contracts.

We have exposed some of the excesses of their spending – £500,000 in one year alone on gagging orders for departing staff; £20m – a £6m overspend – on new offices at Landmark House next to the A14 in the North West of Ipswich. On the other side of the road lies the derelict Bury Road Park and Ride terminus. Ironically the spend on Landmark House would have kept that Park and Ride service running for nearly 40 years! Heaven only knows that Ipswich Town centre needs all the support it can get right now. The continuing road works are a further discouragement to shoppers.

We also exposed a rise of £10m in salaries paid to top earners at Suffolk County Council in just 5 years – including the £218,000 a year paid to the former Chief Executive, Andrea Hill. The list goes on. And whilst they have been cutting services, they have amassed reserves of £152m. Whose money is this? Shouldn’t it be spent on services?

It is easy when in power to forget that the principle role of councillors  is to provide the best possible services within the resources available. There is no room for arrogance and egotism, which can easily blind those in power to the needs of the people they are there to serve. I won’t miss the Conservative front bench, who regularly treat opposition councillors – and the public – with contempt. “How do you put up with that behaviour?” people ask. Well there’s only so long that you can tolerate being treated in that way. In my case my health – and my family – have dictated that I stand down.

The public will decide tomorrow who runs Suffolk County Council for the next four years. The last eight years of Conservative rule in the County have been disastrous. Democracy is officially dead. Eight Conservative councillors make all the decisions and the backbenchers are just voting fodder.

Suffolk deserves better.

For a list of Lib Dem candidates go to our website

Published and promoted by D. Busby, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, all at 16 Two Acres, Capel St. Mary, Ipswich IP9 2XP

 

Suffolk’s Education Results – a question of political priorities?

When Conservatives at Suffolk County Council started on the process of abolishing Middle Schools 7 years ago, we warned that there would be major problems ahead. We knew that at some point the then Labour government would run out of money for new school buildings and that the council would be left to foot the bill.

We were also extremely suspicious that the figures they produced, comparing results from 3 tier with 2 tier schooling, did not take deprivation into account. We were concerned that the focus on re-organisation would take resources away from 2 tier areas. The position of Suffolk in the national GCSE league table tells its own story:

Primary school SATS show a similar picture. When we jointly ran the council the education of our children and young people was our top priority. We always made sure that any shortfall in government funding for education was made up from local resources. The Conservatives clearly did not feel the need to prioritise education in the same way. The budget for school improvement has almost halved. Our amendment to the Conservative budget this year and last included additional resources for school improvement. The amendment was rejected.

The latest phase of reorganisation will result in more split site schools. More than 1500 pupils are now being taught in temporary classrooms. The Conservatives have let down children and young people in Suffolk in a major way. It will damage both their future employment and health prospects. I wonder how they sleep at night?

Nick Clegg on Leveson and the cross party agreement

Yesterday evening Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wrote:

Having been in face to face negotiations till nearly midnight last night – followed by calls, texts and emails for many hours afterwards – I am delighted to have stood up this afternoon in the House of Commons to welcome the cross-party agreement on implementing the Leveson Report. It wasn’t easy but after a lot of hard work – led on our side by the tireless Jim Wallace, we have got there.

The Leveson Inquiry was established after public revulsion at the phone hacking scandal. So, when Lord Justice Leveson published his recommendations to reform the regulation of the press, the Liberal Democrats took a stand for the victims of press abuse, and supported them.

In fact, I took the unprecedented step of making a separate statement in the House of Commons, on an issue where we disagreed with the Prime Minister. Having been honest with the public about our differences, it was then our duty to sit down with all parties and come to an agreement.

As I mentioned in my latest “Letter from the Leader”, we set out three tests for press regulation in the future:

        1. Delivering Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations
        2. Commanding the widest possible cross-party support, as Lord Justice Leveson also wanted
        3. Striking the right balance between protecting and cherishing the great tradition of a free press in this country, and protecting innocent people from unwarranted intimidation and bullying by powerful interests in our media

      What has been agreed today meets those tests.

    We will achieve Leveson through the Royal Charter published by the Liberal Democrats and Labour last week. Our Royal Charter ensures that editors cannot sign off their own code of conduct; cannot veto appointments to the watchdog; can accept complaints from third party groups, and must apologise properly when they make mistakes.

    And, crucially, all parties have now agreed that there should be a minimal clause in law that will prevent future governments chopping and changing the new system on a whim. This was important to me as, without it, the door would be open to political meddling by future governments. We cannot take this risk.

    With these protections we have got the best possible outcome today: a fair, independent press watchdog to serve the British people while protecting our free press – a thoroughly liberal solution.

    REPORT TO PARISHES, Mid-Samford Ward: March 2013

    From Babergh District Councillors Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

    Council Tax

    Council met on 26 February 2013 to set this year’s budget and council tax. As predicted, there is no increase for Babergh. Overall, the total Council Tax amounts for parishes in the Mid Samford Ward will be: Capel St Mary £1508.54; Great Wenham and Little Wenham £1437.16; Holton St Mary £1485.24; Stratford St Mary £1484.24.

    Housing Revenue account, rents and charges

    Housing rents are increased by 5.17% – the average will be £90.12 per week; sheltered communal service charges are increased by 5%; sheltered utilities charges are decreased by 2.88%.

    Council will be creating a new “build/acquisitions pot” from existing capital programme levels and anticipated right to buy receipts..The housing register currently has 1725 applicants; each year there are some 250 vacancies. There is a requirement for additional affordable homes in the District to meet this need. The financial climate is creating a new group of people who are finding it increasingly difficult to secure housing, leading to an increase in the number of privately rented homes.

    Gypsy and Traveller Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk

    Babergh approved this strategy for the years up to 2014 at the February Council. Predominantly it sets out a framework for support combining improved relationships, and understanding, along with more tangible proposals about encampments, welfare, discrimination, education and health inequalities. The action plan includes specific undertakings to address the needs for residential accommodation and locations for transit provision across both counties

    Village of the Year 2013

    The 2013 village of the year event was launched last month – there are seven villages that qualify to enter this year from Babergh (electoral roll of between 1251 and 2250): Acton, Brantham, East Bergholt, Great Waldingfield, Holbrook, Lavenham and Shotley.  All the relevant parish clerks have received email copies of the brochure and application form and entries close on 20th May.  

    Vision and priorities for Babergh

    In March Strategy will be hoping to propose the following.

    • To create an environment where individuals, families, communities and businesses can thrive and flourish. 
    • Shape, influence and provide the leadership to enable growth whilst protecting and enhancing our environment. 
    • Shape, influence and provide the leadership to achieve the right mix and supply of housing. 
    • Shape, influence and provide the leadership to support and facilitate active, healthy and safe communities.

     Hughes Corner central reservation closure is delayed

    Work on the closure of the central reservation gap on the A12 at the Hughes Corner junction (B1068 Stoke by Nayland turning) is now scheduled for early April. Traffic counts have been taken on both the A12 and local roads prior to the changes in order to monitor traffic patterns before and after.

    As we mentioned last time there are particular concerns around the inappropriate use of School Lane in Stratford St. Mary. All advance signing to Higham will be removed and the road will be labelled as “Single track with passing places”.

     What happens to your recycling?

    The Suffolk Waste Partnership has produced a very interesting document, which highlights what happens to the waste that we recycle here in Suffolk. This includes information about how many tonnes of waste are recycled in each category, where the waste ends up, and the fact that as a County we recycle 53.2% of our waste. Here is the link to the document.

     Inquiry into development plans begins

    The Inquiry into Babergh’s “Local Development Framework” began on Tuesday 5th March. This will become the basis for housing and business/industrial development over the next 20 years. It is taking place in the council chamber at the Hadleigh offices and is expected to run for two weeks.

    Demand responsive transport

    We thought it would be helpful to publicise the two demand responsive transport services which cover this area. Both services will provide connections with other bus services. More details on the website

    Suffolk Links Buzabout:

    This service operates from 0700 to 1900 Monday to Saturday (except Public Holidays). The bus will take you to the railway stations at Ipswich or Manningtree, the London Road Park & Ride site at Copdock or any of the villages within the area shown on the map in leaflets and on the website. Connections can be made for onwards travel to places further afield such as Ipswich town centre, Lowestoft or Norwich.

    • You can call 0845 458 1920 up to a week before you wish to travel and book your journey. 
    • The booking service is open from 0900 to 1600, Monday to Friday (except Public Holidays).

     Suffolk Links Brett:

    This service operates from 0700 to 1900, Mondays to Saturdays. The bus will take you to Hadleigh or any of the villages within the area shown on the map on the website and in leaflets. Connections can be made for onwards travel to places further afield such as Ipswich, Sudbury or Colchester.

    • Call 01473 828202 up to a week before you wish to travel and book your journey.
    • The booking service is open from 0900 to 1200, Monday to Friday.

     The area served covers Bildeston, Hadleigh, Capel St Mary, Stratford St Mary, Stoke-by-Nayland and Brent Eleigh, Holton St. Mary and villages in between.

    Out of Hours Provider is changing – Stafford and rural homes (SARH)

    As from the 1st April 2013, the provider of Out Of Hours (OOH) services for both Babergh and Mid Suffolk is changing. A full and robust joint procurement exercise was undertaken by the commissioning team and a range of officers. The successful providers are SARH who already provide similar services for a range of organisations, including local authorities and housing associations. The five-year contract, will be delivered by SARH’s ‘You First’ service which provides independent living accommodation, extra care housing, Telecare and Lifeline services and a 24 hour customer call centre. The new contact number for Babergh will be 01473 826622. For more information click here

    March County Council report

    Full Council Budget Meeting

     The Full Council budget meeting took place on the 14th of February..

     As I have mentioned in the past, the administration submitted their budget aiming to cut £24.9m for this financial year.  This included £7m from Adult and Community Services, and £2.5m from remodelling Children’s services.  The council’s reserves currently stand at £152m, which is just under one third of its total budget .

     The Liberal Democrat Group submitted an amendment to the budget aiming to improve services in a number of different areas. This would have been funded from the contingency reserve.

    • £650,000 to School Improvement Services – to employ additional advisors that go into schools to provide guidance to help schools improve their level of attainment, which drastically needs improving in Suffolk.
    • £475,000 for providing an additional 1900 days of supply work providing it is matched by school funds. This would allow time for teachers from well performing schools to partner with those who are not doing as well. This approach has been very successful in Hackney.
    • £300,000 to help Suffolk County Council commit to a pilot scheme that would increase the number of foster carers for the most vulnerable children in Suffolk.
    • £300,000 to respond to local community requests for 20mph zones in Suffolk towns and villages.

    This additional funding we believe would have helped to improve attainment in Suffolk, care for those vulnerable children and to improve the response to new speed limits, following the disbanding of the speed management team at the County Council.

     The school improvement budget has been cut substantially over the last few years and this has coincided with a dramatic fall in the performance of Suffolk schools, so we were very disappointed that our amendment was defeated..

    February Cabinet

     The February Cabinet, which took place on the 26th, contained a number of significant issues for residents across the County.   The main issues that were discussed and agreed are below;

    • As mentioned below, the Cabinet agreed to abolish middle schools in the Stowmarket and Stowupland areas.
    • Review of the outcomes of school attainment in Suffolk
    • East Anglia ONE Offshore windfarm – a response to the consultation of this application which will see a significant section of the power cables from the offshore windfarm buried underground. This includes the section from Felixstowe to Bramford.
    • Ipswich Northern Fringe Supplementary Planning Document – this is a response to Ipswich Borough Council’s report on the potential housing development to the north of Ipswich.
    • Procurement of Highways Services – the Cabinet agreed to allow officers to negotiate extensions to the current highways contract, (until the 30th September), and proceed with awarding a new highways contract to the joint venture between May Gurney & WSP UK Ltd which will commence on the 1st of October.
    • Suffolk Customer Services Model:  Post 2014 – agree to bring the Council’s customer service function back into the Council (from CSD) as of May 2014.  This includes public access and Customer First functions.
    • Suffolk Growth Strategy – the Cabinet was asked to endorse the Suffolk Growth Strategy, which is a joint economic growth strategy developed by the county, district and borough councils in Suffolk.

     For all the items and more information on each of these papers, please click here

    Abolition of Middle Schools in Stowmarket and Stowupland

    You will be aware that the County Council’s Cabinet made the decision on Tuesday the 26th of February to abolish the middle schools in Stowmarket and Stowupland.

     However, the Liberal Democrats attempted to get the decision discussed again by the Scrutiny Committee under the call in procedure. We felt the justification for making this decision was flawed.  Of particular issue was the lack of funding to provide top class schools in this area, as the plans will see a split site school created in Stowmarket.   We also highlighted the contrasting statistics provided by the Council and the campaign group, as well as issues over safety.

     The call in was rejected on the grounds that the Cabinet had all the required information to hand, which means the decision has now been approved.   The Lib Dem group are disappointed that there will be no further opportunity to re-examine the decision as many parents and pupils feel very passionately about Middle School closures.

    What happens to your recycled items?

     The Suffolk Waste Partnership has produced a very interesting document, which highlights what happens to the waste that we recycle here in Suffolk.   This PDF includes information about how many tonnes of waste are recycled in each category, where the waste ends up, and the fact that as a County we recycle 53.2% of our waste.

    Click here for more information

     School Meals in Suffolk

     The catering provider to schools in Suffolk, EATS, has provided assurance that the meat provided in the schools it supplies does not contain any horsemeat.

     The vast majority of meals provided for children in Suffolk schools, are created in house, and beef used by EATS is of assured food standard (Red Tractor accredited).   The red tractor logo is a guarantee of both quality and origin.

    Scrutiny Committee to look at Raising the Bar and support for young people

     The council’s Scrutiny committee on March 11th will be focusing on two items this month – the Raising the Bar initiative on improving school results and the progress of the divestment of youth services and subsequent closure of open access youth clubs, which took place as part of the 2011 budget cuts.

    The Scrutiny Papers can be found here

    Our natural Suffolk heritage v wind turbines?

    The Daily Telegraph has reported on a landmark legal case brought by East Northants District Council. Plans for four 300ft wind turbines on the Duke of Gloucester’s Barnham estate, were passed by an inspector in April last year. This decision is now being contested by the council in court.

    The plans were put forward by West Coast Energy. The report from the Planning Inspectorate states:

    The inspectorate had concluded the presence of the turbines “would not erode a reasonable observer’s understanding or appreciation of the significance of the designated heritage assets – and they would therefore have no harmful impact on their settings”.

    What concerns me most is that current planning law affords little or no protection from either wind turbines or new rows of electricity pylons. The major debating point in this court case will be whether the requirement to produce renewable energy is allowed to outweigh our natural and built environment.

    So here’s the question – why is it that giant wind turbines (or pylons) can be erected in the middle of the countryside when the same planning inspectorate would not allow a 30 storey office or apartment block in the same location? 

    The two 430 ft high turbines planned by Partnership for Renewables will dwarf the Orwell Bridge. The company has refused to put up a blimp which would allow local people to assess the impact of the proposals. The photomontages provided at their recent exhibitions were completely inadequate. Photographs were carefully massaged so that large trees close to the camera conveniently hid the scale of the turbines. And there was no photomontage with a high viewpoint, looking down from Pinewood or Belstead Hills.

    I have previously stated that I am not against wind turbines per se – but they have to be in the right place. In my opinion on fields between Ipswich and Belstead/Wherstead is not the right place. They are far too close to housing. Also there are other means of generating electricity from renewables. Let’s investigate those. Otherwise we will see a further industrialisation of the countryside in Suffolk – in addition to the new row of pylons planned by National Grid.

    The contribution of these two wind turbines is miniscule in comparison with the output from the offshore Greater Gabbard windfarm. Each of the turbines will produce 2.5MW of electricity. Greater Gabbard turbines produce a total of 504MW. Are they worth the expense and anguish? PfR’s November newsletter gives details of proposed locations.

    Fairer Tax – Labour copies Lib Dem tax plans

    With Labour’s announcement of proposals for a mansion tax, the two Eds – Miliband and Balls – seem to have got their inspiration from the Lib Dems. However, as Danny Alexander pointed out in a recent Guardian article:

    We should remember what the Labour leader and Ed Balls actually did with the tax system when they controlled it. There was no fairness, just a complex series of loopholes for the rich to avoid tax, and a complex tax credit system that too often trapped the poor in debt.

     The 10p income tax rate – which was abolished by Gordon Brown – was not as fair as the Lib Dem proposals which have now been put into action. As Danny Alexander says:

    We have cut in half the income tax bill for people working full time on the minimum wage. From April this year, more than 20 million people will have had a £600 tax cut, and more than 2 million will have been lifted out of paying income tax altogether.

    Something must be done to ensure that those at the top end of the income scale pay their fair share. Another recent article in the Guardian revealed that the top 1% of earners own 10% of the wealth in this country. Vince Cable continues to champion the idea of a mansion tax for properties worth more than £2million. He says it would help to burst the property price bubble in London and the South East.